Not a choice but a blend

I loved the Merton piece I posted yesterday, but I did find myself wondering why it needed to appear at this particular time, in the middle of a series that was evolving around the premises in Alan Jones'  Soul Making.

Fortunately this morning I see a bit of a connection.  I am reading Jones' chapter on the importance of tears, and in the middle of it there's this curious paragraph that caught my eye:

"Christian believers have tended to be nervous about and suspicious of the waking-up process because it is thought that Christianity has nothing to do with enlightenment, but only with salvation.  The distinction is an unfortunate one.  Enlightenment, without some truly saving aspect to it, is little more than an intellectual exercise.  Salvation without the inner transforming power of self-knowledge is little short of magic."

Ah.  So war IS germane to the subject at hand; in this case, the war between Eastern and Western religions -- or, to bring it home to a more personal level, the war within me between Episcopalian and Buddhist. If I understand the tension there to be a misunderstanding, a sense that there must be either enlightenment or salvation, then how reassuring it becomes to understand that, just as I have sensed, we need both.

I've been cycling between the two for years -- going deep into Christianity only to be repelled by the lack of intellectual understanding, then drifting into Buddhism only to find myself longing for the salvation of a more personal God.  Perhaps I'm not alone in this -- certainly I have a number of friends who are involved in the same sort of whirlpool -- but isn't it possible that the massive exodus of young people from the church (and here I find myself thinking of Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and Holden Caulfield's distaste for "phonies") is related to the same sort of either/or stance the church tends to take?  Who wouldn't be appalled by an organization which insists on making all sorts of rules for others while never taking the time to explore, admit to and reform to its own flawed being?  Isn't that at least a factor in our corporate distaste for the mess at Penn State?

To be relevant to today's much wiser generations (they have learned SOMEthing from their parents, after all), it seems to me that Christianity might want to spend more time on the waking-up process, on the kingdom of God that is right here and right now.  Jesus, after all, was clearly a supremely enlightened being.  Perhaps if we spent more time exploring what he was trying to teach us about that and less time worrying about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or who's allowed to step up to the altar or put on a collar, our young people -- who are searching for the same things we longed for in a significantly more confusing world than the one we grew up in -- might find the church more a place of hope and connection and less a place of rules and exclusion.

You can lead a horse to water, as the saying goes -- and many of us parents have done just that with our children -- but no matter how thirsty the horse is, it's only likely to drink if the water is truly fresh.

Thomas Merton on War

"Violence rests on the assumption that the enemy and I are entirely different: the enemy is evil and I am good. The enemy must be destroyed but I must be saved.

But love sees things differently. It sees that even the enemy suffers from the same sorrows and limitations that I do. That we both have the same hopes, the same needs, the same aspiration for peaceful and harmonious human life. And that death is the same for both of us. 

Then love may perhaps show me that my brother is not really my enemy and that war is both his enemy and mine. War is our enemy. Then peace becomes possible."

— Thomas Merton in No Man Is an Island quoted in Thomas Merton: Essential Writings selected by Christine M. Bochen (Courtesy of Spirituality and Practice)

So.  What battles are you fighting today?
Who is your enemy today?
Can you find it in your heart to love instead?

The joy of completion

Here, as promised, are the pictures of my goose project, which I finally completed yesterday. It's been quite an adventure creating this, with lots of changes and adaptations along the way; the final challenge was the discovery that, once mounted, the wings tended to flare downward (see the first image below). Fortunately a solution came to me in the shower, and yesterday afternoon found me out shopping for beads and buttons to complete the project.

I have to say I spent more time and energy on this goose than I have on almost any other invention I've undertaken, so it's nice, at the end, to be pleased with the finished project.  It seems clear its sale is unlikely to bring anything like what I put into it -- materials will probably be covered (if it sells) but the time... well, the reward for the time won't be in money, will it!  The reward for the time is the fun of imagining, creating, and the final fruition.

And there's a lesson in that, isn't there?  As I grow older, I realize -- if I look at my parents' passing -- there's not all that much time left to make whatever mark on life I need or want or am destined to make.  As Alan Jones says in Soul Making, death is becoming a companion, a friend. 

But "to live our life from the point of view of our death is not necessarily a capitulation to despair, to withdrawal, to passivity.  Rather, it can become the basis for our being and doing in the world... enabling us to live every single moment with new appreciation and delight.  When I say to myself, "This moment may be my last," I am able to see the world with new eyes."

... "If we sit still and really listen to it," he continues, speaking of what life in yesterday's cell has to teach us, "the fact of our own death will come to us with clarity and freshness.  Attention to the voice will force us to experience our fragility, futility, and creatureliness.  We will be confronted with the emptiness, terror, and formlessness that lies deep in the heart... [but] to the believer, this vast inner emptiness is nothing less than the dwelling place of God."

In my experience, that vast inner emptiness is exactly the place from which projects like this one, adventures which challenge the brain, busy the body, and fill the heart with pleasure, arise.  And for that, I have to say, I am and will always be eternally grateful.

Lessons in the Cell

Given the way things often come in threes, it makes perfect sense that today's reading in  Alan Jones' book, Soul Making, would tie together the previous two days' work.  He's quoting that really famous saying from the Desert Fathers: "Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."

So this, I take to mean, is the cell: that unique set of hereditary and family-of-origin challenges I described as a cage two days ago; the difficulties with which each of us struggles; all the behaviors and patterns that appear to keep us from realizing the goals we set for ourselves, from seeing our own worth, from understanding ourselves, and from grasping our life's calling.

And yet everything we need to learn and know can be learned from sitting in silence within that cell; from watching the moods and thoughts flow through like clouds and storms upon a clear blue sky; from listening to the hopes and fears, the whining and the negativity, the bitterness and the worry, the bursts of pure joy and the schadenfreude.  The cell becomes a sonnet, a structure within which everything is possible.

And yet -- if there's anything I've learned these last two weeks (aside from what Alan Jones is teaching me) it is that (as he is quick to point out) we also need our time outside the cell, our interactions with the world beyond our own private rooms, to stir up the thinking, to expose the patterns, and to trigger the responses that have so much to teach us. 

For Jones that means balancing alone time with church, for all that liturgy and community have to offer in the way of education.  For those of us who find it hard to sit in church, readings and social interactions must suffice to fill that function.  And I have to say, that does work pretty well.

But I do find I miss communion.  I understand that for many it's just a ritual.  But for me it's an important one, a very physical reminder that we are loved, connected, and forgiven for all the ways we fail to measure up to the standards we set for ourselves. 

Hmm.  I have to say: I hadn't realized that's where this post would take me.  But maybe that's the significance of the juice box in the corner of the window in this image.  The image is part of a series I did several years ago, entitled Containment.  Perhaps it's time to examine those images again, to see what else they have to teach me...

A sonnet, not a cage

For several weeks now I've been working on a project for an upcoming show at the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Gallery.  Well, two projects, actually, but today I want to talk specifically about one of them.

As I've mentioned here before, we adopted a gosling when we were living on Shaw Island, named him Kiwi, and raised him to adulthood.  It was a seminal experience for all of us, and I've thought for years of turning the story into a book.

I'm still thinking about that, but in the meantime I'm turning it into an art project, creating and painting a wooden goose and creating wings which tell the story.  (Yes, it's complicated, but I promise I'll post a picture here when it's done).

So the story is very much on my mind -- which gave a little extra impact to the piece I read this morning in Alan Jones' book, Soul Making:

"Konrad Lorenz pointed out that if you walk in front of a little chick at a certain time in the chick's life, it will follow you.  There is a particular time when it gets "set."  Psychoanalysts claim that we too get "set" at a certain time in our lives...roughly three and a half to six years...and it is the most formative, significant, molding experience of human life, and is the source of all subsequent adult behaviors."

That "set" phenomenon is called imprinting, and I know firsthand the power of it because Kiwi imprinted on me: he had a special cry just for me, and if I was out of sight and he happened to be hungry or just lonely, he would cry that special cry until I came and picked him up.  He followed me everywhere, went with us on walks with our dog to the beach, and rides in boats and in cars (what a mess THAT made!) and when we left him with friends and went on vacation he greeted me upon my return with a peck on the lips and a snuggle (by then he was quite full grown; I can still remember the feel of warm goose in my arms).

But then Jones goes on to say, "the consensus is that at some point the pattern of our behavior is set.  Is there any good news in this?  Believers bet their lives that there is.  It means that we are not in control.  We are not master in our own house... I have no real freedom.  I cannot change my fate... But suffice it to say here that while we may well be "fixed" into certain patterns, within those patterns there is an almost infinite variety of possibility.  The structure of a sonnet is fixed.  Its form is inflexible, but within its tight boundaries unimaginable variety is possible."  And this, he describes, is the miracle of grace.

Having wrestled yesterday with my apparently fixed/predetermined tendency to perfectionism, and knowing I can trace the power behind that desperate need to please back to specific incidents in that exact period of my childhood, I find it reassuring to think of that patterning as a sonnet, a musical structure within which I have unimaginable freedom, rather than as the cage I was seeing yesterday.  And as I look at this sweet photo of my husband tenderly cradling Kiwi in his arms, I can think of those boundaries against which I struggle as loving arms rather than a cage; as a way God cares for us, keeping us (to paraphrase the compassionate words from yesterday's post) "safe from inner and outer dangers, well in body and mind, at ease and happy."

Meditating on this this morning, my mind kept straying to the ways my own children were imprinted during that time period, some really heinous experiences at a school they were attending at the time which I (struggling with my own authority issues) felt powerless -- or was too terrified -- to address.  But I have to trust that there is grace in that as well; that for them, as for me, these experiences can provide a structure within which infinite possibilities for learning and grace may be found.

Which gives me hope.

PS: Just received a blog post from my vicar, who is spending his summer on the road.  He addresses the same issue from another wonderful perspective; you can find his thoughts here.

Life in the cage

Reading Soul Making this morning, I was delighted to find Alan Jones quoting one of my favorite passages from one of my alltime favorite books, JD Salinger's Franny and Zooey:  First Zooey speaks:

"I was furious.  The studio audience were all morons, the announcer was a moron, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn't going to shine my shoes for them... But Seymour said to shine them for the Fat Lady.  I didn't know what the hell he was talking about... but I shined my shoes for the Fat Lady every time I went on the air again..."

 And then Franny recounts something Seymour said to her later:

"... and I'll tell you a terrible secret -- Are you listening to me?  There isn't anyone out there who isn't ...the Fat Lady... Don't you know that goddam secret yet?  And don't you know -- listen to me now -- don't you know who the Fat Lady really is? ... Ah, buddy.  Ah, buddy.  It's Christ Himself.  Christ Himself, buddy."

So: a little background here.  As I mentioned earlier, I submitted a play to a contest, thought it was superior, and then, reading one of the winners, I could see my play was lacking a critical dimension.  I think of myself as an excellent writer, and yet, these last few days, I've been reading Ivan Doig's Ride with me, Mariah Montana, and I'm realizing my writing is downright pedestrian next to his -- again, lacking a critical dimension.

As I sat in meditation this morning after reading the Franny and Zooey passage, I found myself looking back over the last few days, and I began to see a pattern of inner behavior.   I'd participated in several play readings, and I kept noticing my mind reacting critically to others' performances (as well as my own). Some inner voice was saying, don't they realize ... (fill in the blank with whatever imperfect behavior is being observed) is unacceptable?  It echoed something I'd noticed earlier; that a lot of what was springing to mind was negative.

And yet some other part of me was delighted to discover that in fact each actor had some terrifically original interpretations to bring to their roles ... in short, you can do things wrong and still get it right in some very important ways.

The child in me, desperate to please a critical parent, is always dividing the world into this is okay, that is not; he is okay, she is not; she is someone to seek out, he is someone to avoid; ignore that one, impress this one... etc, etc, etc.  It's all about some relentless inner drive to perfection, to keep getting closer to perfect; the frantic need to be right, and to get it right or risk parental displeasure and punishment.

I get that this is not just hammered into me but hereditary -- I know exactly where it comes from.  But by constantly busying my mind with evaluations -- this is good, this is bad, this is black, that is white -- I create a sort of cage for myself.  I only see these black and white bars, and miss the glorious, connected flow of creation and creativity that lies beyond the bars.

Anne Lamott describes the problem beautifully in her book, Bird by Bird:

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life...  I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die.  The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.  Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force."

Which brings me to my final thought.  What I concluded in the course of my meditation is that the alternative to perfectionism might be compassion.  The alternative to this constant dividing of the world into black and white, okay and not okay; the alternative to living behind the dividing bars that separate us from full participation in creation -- is compassion, is doing it for the Fat Lady, is seeing past the bars to that which is loved by God; is seeing that all creation is love-worthy.

As Jack Kornfield suggests in the concluding chapter of The Wise Heart, I need to learn to see the arising and passing of all things with equanimity and balance, to be open and balanced and peaceful -- and I need, whenever those judging thoughts arise, to notice them -- they are, in their own way, a gift -- but also to allow them to float away; to look instead upon the people I'm inclined to judge (including myself) and imagine calling forth the blessings they deserve and represent; to project, not, "you are good (or bad)", but

"May you be filled with loving-kindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be at ease and happy."

Perhaps if I understand that this is not only the right thing to do given my belief system but also what could free my incipient creativity from its cage it might give me the motivation I need to view myself and the world with more compassion...

Yup.  That's right.  The Fat Lady is me.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

It was lovely to spend some time last week back on Orcas Island.  Unlike many places where I used to live, the island changes little.  Yes, the stores change hands -- the old ones fail, and new optimists come in with all their merchandise, and hopes, and dreams.  But for the most part the scenery remains unchanged -- and ever beautiful.

The faces haven't changed that much either, over the years -- not even my own, though surely there are signs of wear and tear.  But a new haircut is far more startling than a little gray, or a wrinkle or two, or the slow sag of flesh with time.

I was thinking of this yesterday because I happened to be in the room when my husband turned the TV to NCIS, a show I never watch, and there stood an actor who'd been an idealized dreamboat in my youth: David McCallum, who'd played Illya Kuryakin, the handsome blonde secret agent in Mission Impossible.  I could see him as an older man, of course, but I could also see the handsome youth who stole my heart all those years ago; that sharp jawline still shines clear despite the aging jowls.  (Those of us who have weak jaws and chins SO admire the jawlines with which our heroes have been blessed!)

And then I look in the mirror and am shocked by the new shortness of my hair -- and how it exposes that same weak jaw and chin I so deplore.  I reassure myself, of course, because I know it will all grow out; it's an easy adjustment that also fades with time.

But as I watch, in my own neighborhood, the little cabins disappearing, each to be replaced by mega-mansions, whose inhabitants will rarely be in residence...those changes, unlike my hair, are irrevocable: our little neighborhood will never be the same.

Little wonder, then, that I draw so much pleasure from the unchanged rural vistas of Orcas Island -- and yet, as I wander the backroads, I can feel a sense that this is no longer home.  There's a sadness in my heart as it seeks that sense of connection and finds the threads that wove me into this community are slowly unraveling.  Each time I visit I feel a little more like a tourist, a little less like a child returning home...

The glory, and the falling

Some months back one of our local theater groups sponsored a 10-minute play contest. I'd only ever written one play, and that was years ago, but I thought -- well, this could be fun! -- and so I created what I thought at the time was an amusing mini-masterpiece and submitted it.

In all, 54 plays were submitted, and about two weeks ago the two winners were announced, along with the 14 plays in total that would be performed. I was saddened, of course, to learn that my play was not one of the chosen ones, but, as part of the stable of local actors I would at least have the fun of acting in one of the chosen plays.

All of which is a lead-in to say that last night saw the gathering of playwrights,directors, and actors in preparation for the coming readings, which will happen the weekend of August 18. I was excited, but still a little skeptical; what would these plays be like? (Translate: what could possibly be better than mine?)

After all the introductions and applause and directions, the actors met with their directors and playwrights to discuss the upcoming performance and schedule rehearsals (these will just be readings, with scripts in hand, so there doesn't need to be a lot of preparation prior to performance). And our group was lucky; we had time for a first read-through of our play.

I had skimmed through it quickly at the beginning of the evening, so I knew pretty much what it involved. But after actually acting through it, I was just blown away. How brave the playwright had been! In the space of ten minutes he had managed to address the themes I hold most dear (compassion, separation, assumptions, hope... and more) with a timely subject and two almost irresistible characters. I felt so touched and honored by the role I was to play -- and, at the same time, I found I was almost embarrassingly conscious of how shallow my own play seemed in comparison.

And so, this morning, when I read the following quote from Alan Jones in Soul Making, it resonated deeply:

"We need to be able to see, at one and the same time, the glory to which we are called and the distance we have fallen from that glory. It is the task of the artist to help us develop that double vision. The greatest of them are able to help us see the glory in life without sentimentalizing or trivializing it. They also enable us to see the suffering and horror of life without pushing us into despair."

This was the gift our author, George Shannon, brought to the play: a willingness to bare his soul in a way that both exposed us to the sadness of life and brought us hope. And, yes, I sometimes do that here. But participating in George's play helped me better understand the glory to which I am called, and the distance I have fallen. If I really want to produce fine work, I need to follow George's example and dance a lot closer to the core. Pat answers and trivialities will not touch into the heart of the work we are all about for our time on the planet.

It was a humbling and inspiring moment, and I'm looking forward to exploring my character further: with luck, I may be able to do justice to the breadth of her emotions and experience.

PS: About this picture: it was taken in a nursing home, many years ago; I suspect this sweet, sweet man has long since passed away. But there is something in his face that reminds me of the other character in George's play and so I post it here. It also helps me understand that even when my writing -- so often dominated by my left brain, which tends to be reluctant to step into the abyss -- dances on the surface, my camera -- always a pretty direct link to my right brain -- has a way of conveying the deeper impact of existence, the glory, and the falling. I confess I find that reassuring.

Framing experience

I've always loved this barn, which sits in the middle of Crow Valley, on Orcas Island. But what makes this picture especially appealing is the lacy frame around it created by the branches.

... which makes me think of how often our perceptions of people and events are affected by the way we frame the situation -- whether consciously or unconsciously.

I was reading a description this morning in Alan Jones' book, Soul Making, of historian Lytton Strachey, who "stood for the virtues of tolerance, enlightenment and humanity," and yet, operating out of a hypersensitive awareness of his own failure, insignificance and isolation, he persisted in poisoning the world around him, and operating out of "a scathing contempt for the mass of humankind -- the ugly, the boring, the stupid, the ambitious, the powerful and the ordinary."

Clearly the frame through which Strachey viewed the world was not this idyllic embrace of graceful trees but rather the desert of his own perceived emptiness.  And how often do we see that -- high-minded people with admirable standards viewing the world (and presumably themselves as well) with utter contempt.  It's the ultimate curse of perfectionism, and cripples not just the viewer but those around him who attempt to show love and affection.

... and now I'm thinking of a video of the Dalai Lama which my daughter sent me this morning (warning; there's a lot of advertising on the page).  In it he explains that he is not enlightened, and that he gets angry -- in short, that he is not perfect.  And the look on his face as he says it is so kind, so compassionate, so filled with generosity and humor that it is absolutely irresistible. In fact, it looks remarkably like enlightenment, even if he claims it is not.

And what would make him more enlightened?  Practice, he says.  He just doesn't have enough time to practice.  But something tells me he has other ways of practicing -- and one of them has to do with how he frames his experiences.  We may not be able to meditate as much as we like.  But we can choose, with the Dalai Lama, to view the world more kindly; to accept our own and others' failings with generosity, curiosity, acceptance and affection.

I'm not there yet.  But I'm working on it...

Marking and claiming: Divine moments

One of the truly marvelous but occasionally disturbing side effects of being a contemplative photographer -- well, any kind of photographer, really -- is that, after spending a lot of time with a camera in your hand, it becomes difficult not to notice, not to be drawn to potential subjects.

Take this image, for instance: my friend Nan and I were just sitting outside the local bakery, sharing a cup of coffee, and I found myself completely distracted by the patterns created by her legs below the table.  I always love blue and orange together anyway, but combined with those two sweeping arcs of black -- it was just irresistible.  I began to realize I wasn't concentrating on what she was saying, and finally had to interrupt for a moment to ask if I could photograph what I was seeing.

Once it was in the camera, the image lost most of its pull and I was able to return to the subject at hand. But until I had captured it it kept pulling at me, and I wasn't much good for anything else.

I sent a link to yesterday's post to a friend here on the island (it had to do with her name), and this morning she sent back a quote that seems quite pertinent here.  It's from Peter Kingsley's book, Reality; a passage she was reading just yesterday:

"Our minds are like a dog's bladder. Dogs pee on things that catch their interest so they can leave their mark on them, so they can put a claim on what they imagine is somehow theirs. When anything catches our interest, we think about it and overwhelm it with the smell of our thoughts.

Just by thinking matters over we bring them onto our own level, make them part of our world--without even realizing what we are doing.

The art of knowing how not to impose ourselves on the things we see or hear or read is a hard one to discover. We are not aware that there are secret ways of allowing them to penetrate and change us, rather than us always changing them. For this one essential art, no schools or colleges exist to teach us. Learning it takes either a long and lonely training---or just a few intense moments of searing honesty and sheer disgust with oneself."

Things catch my photographer's eye, and for some reason I cannot be content until I mark them, and claim them as my own.  Which immediately makes me think of a line from the service of Holy Baptism in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: "you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever."  And learning what that means, how that awareness penetrates and changes us, is the work of a lifetime.

The baptismal service. of course, is written by humans, whether or not it is divinely inspired.  So the part of me that wonders if this marking and claiming things is a reflection of our having been made in God's image is at odds with the part of me that says those words are the human way of attempting to describe that ineffable connection to the Divine.

And just by thinking about all of this, I am "bringing it onto my own level, making it part of my world."  Isn't that amazingly curious -- how a moment in a coffee shop can take us to this other place, where we are exploring the nature of our connection to the Divine? 

Speaking of which, I should probably sign off now and take my dog for a walk...

Which path?

A few weeks ago a woman emailed me some questions about contemplative photography for a paper she was writing.  They were wonderful questions and a delight to answer, so we struck up a correspondence, and yesterday she sent me a draft of her paper.

Given the way things seem to connect in my life, it should probably not have come as a surprise,  therefore, that my reading this morning -- in Alan Jones' book, Soul Making, a book I've had on my shelf for roughly 20 years without reading (so curious: what finally compelled me to pick it up?) -- some totally pertinent remarks about images and contemplation.  To wit:

"The more I follow the apophatic* way, the more I need to be nourished by images ... [which] point me in the direction I wish to go, but are not the way itself.  The way is a contemplative one, which simply means looking at someone or something without absorbing them into our little world of ideas and values.  Contemplation means seeing what is there and refusing to hallucinate so that we see only what we want to see.  We then wait to receive what chooses to reveal itself (as in the Greek word for truth, aletheia, which literally means to uncover.  The truth then, is that which reveals or uncovers itself).  It means being attentive to whatever and whoever is there as truly other than ourselves.  This is what is suggested by the word aesthetic, which strictly means seeing things in such a way that the viewer is changed by what he or she sees... Contemplation (like art) requires of us a willingness to be transformed." from Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality by Alan Jones.

I love that Alan Jones, like Thomas Merton, was thinking about this subject long before I started blogging; long before digital cameras made it so easy for everyone to be a photographer.  But finding  that reading so serendipitously just this morning feels  -- as have several other incidents lately, including this request and that wonderful surprise visit from Linda, my friend in the Philippines -- like a lovely affirmation of this path.  It's been hard, given that the blog seems neither to grow or to make money (and, no, I refuse to put ads on this site), not to feel that perhaps I should be doing something else that might be more successful or more productive.

But this is what I love, and my attempts to find more remunerative employment have so far yielded little, so... I guess I'll stay on this path until something else presents itself, and trust that I will somehow continue to be supported.  Fortunately the fortune cookie I got Wednesday also had a reassuring message: "New financial resources will soon become available  to you."

... from my fortune cookie's lips to God's ears!

*apophatic prayer, as defined by Cynthia Bourgeault in her book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, is "prayer that does not make use of the faculties; in other words it bypasses our capacities for reason, imagination, visualization, emotion and memory... it makes use of faculties that are much more subtle than we're used to and which are normally blocked by our overreliance on our more usual mental and affective processing modes. These more subtle faculties of perception have traditionally been known in Christian tradition as the 'spiritual senses'  ... learning to work with them is somewhat equivalent to learning to see in the dark." 

PS: I notice, now that I'm posting it, that what this picture (which I took yesterday on my way home through the Skagit Valley) has to reveal is surely that all paths still lead to the same place... and how reassuring is THAT?  Perhaps I need to stop hallucinating...

Merton on Faith

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

— Thomas Merton in Thoughts in Solitude

(Thanks to for sharing this with me.)


Hmm. I am standing in the woods beside my car, attempting to blog on my iPhone with one bar of service. Blogger tells me I have uploaded an image from my picasa site, but I see no sign of it. So I just have to trust it's there -- much as I trust that God, though unseen, is there; much as I trust that I am growing into the wise and compassionate woman I long to be, though signs of that are not always apparent, either! I am thankful for the presence of these three wise and compassionate women from Atlanta who are trusting me to deliver them safely to a wedding on Orcas Island later today: it's been an amazing journey so far, and full of Grace.

Listening for the lessons

I just love the light in this picture -- the sparkle of the waves, the patches of light on the dark boat.

It's yet another wonderful reminder that we need the dark parts in our lives -- and in our souls -- to really appreciate, value, and set apart the bright spots that occur.

So if, like me, you struggle a bit with the parts of you that are negative, resentful or snarky; if you're wondering why -- after all these years of reading and study and meditation and retreats -- you still get bent out of shape over relatively inconsequential things... just know: it's normal, it's okay, it's human, and it will pass -- there's even a blessing in it, particularly if we are conscious about honoring and releasing the feeling rather than stuffing it down or dwelling on it.

Nursing a sense of injustice seems to me to be a guaranteed recipe for disaster.  But so does hating yourself for not being perfect, for having a dark side, or being selfish.  Find a middle way, learn to listen for the wonderful lessons your dark side has to offer, and sail on; sail on!

Where meanings live

There is a learning community
where the names of God
are talked about and memorized,
and there is another residence 
where meanings LIVE.

 You are on the way from here to there.

-- Rumi

So many gifts

Yes, that's my goofy grin and short hair; a photo taken at Diocesan House in Seattle, mugging with George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury.

I found the picture in my photo files (a glamorous word for what is really just envelopes of photos in a moving box) the other day while looking for something else; I'm posting it here today because I have a wonderful house guest this week whose friendship dates back to that same year, 1992.

I joined the staff of the Diocese of Olympia in February of 1992 to serve as their director of communications, and went to my first Episcopal Communicators conference -- held in Berkeley, CA at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific -- later that spring (actually it may have been summer; I don't quite remember).

What I remember about that conference was that the male communicators were all up in arms because the House of Bishops had gone into closed session about some important issue at the time (women clergy?  homosexuality?) and couldn't stop talking about how wrong this was.  It was my first conference, but I was really really idealistic and passionate about my job (can you spell naive?) so at some point I stood up and said, "I have a question: when are we going to talk about how we keep our faith alive in the face of all the hypocrisy and disappointment we experience looking so closely at the underside of the church?"

That's probably not exactly how I phrased it, but that's roughly what I was trying to ask, and I remember feeling rather foolish and ashamed because the men (who were then in charge of the meeting) sort of looked perplexed, and then went back to their griping.  But a group of women came up to me afterward and applauded me for asking the question -- and those women are still dear friends of mine, now 20 years later; they are the same women I met for a weekend in the Carolinas back in March.

So it's my friend Nan, now communications director for the Diocese of Atlanta, who is staying with me this week, and of course, though we're sharing where our lives are now, all those old memories come pouring in as well.  And I'm realizing -- not for the first time -- that I miss being that engaged at that level of "what's happening in the church."

... which is, of course, an inevitable side effect of aging.  Nan recommends that I read Richard Rohr's work on the second half of life; that the first half (when this photo was taken) is about developing ego, and the second half is about realizing wholeness, and time to let some of that old ego stuff go.

It's not always easy -- I do understand that -- to set aside all our hard-earned wisdom and experience, not to mention the satisfaction of being, for however short a time, a VIP in however small a community, and understand that life may hold something different for us now.  But I think our hearts and bodies do a wonderful job of guiding us onto new paths, paths which may take us somewhere our brains hadn't ever considered going: we just have to listen, pay attention to our longings, what feeds us, what delights us or makes us ill...

Which is all a way of saying that even though my life now is very different from the life I was living 20 years ago when this picture was taken, my primary question, the one for which each day I continue to seek answers, is still -- how do we keep faith alive?  What steps can we take to honor the gifts we've been given -- the gifts of love, and life, and friendship, and experience?  So it's pretty amusing -- especially since tomorrow is my birthday -- that this is the poem that was read as part of last night's contemplative worship service:

So Many Gifts 

There are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday,
there are so many hand-crafted presents
that have been sent to you by God.
The Beloved does not mind repeating,
"Everything I have is also yours."

Please forgive Hafiz and the Friend
if we break into a sweet laughter
when your heart complains of being thirsty
when ages ago
every cell in your soul
capsized forever
into this infinite golden sea.

a lover's pain is like holding one's breath
too long
in the middle of a vital performance,
in the middle of one of Creation's favorite

Indeed, a lover's pain is this sleeping,
this sleeping,
when God just rolled over and gave you
such a big good-morning kiss!

There are so many gifts, my dear,
still unopened from your birthday.

O, there are so many hand-crafted presents
that have been sent to your life
from God.

-- Hafiz

Be more silent

Sit quietly,
and listen for a voice that will say, 
Be more silent.

As that happens,
your soul starts to revive.

Give up talking, and your positions of power.
Give up the excessive money.

Turn toward the teachers and the prophets.
They will help you grow sweet again,
fragrant, and wild, and fresh;
thankful for any small event...


PS: The small event I'm thankful for today is our wedding, which took place 28 years ago today in a canoe on the Connecticut River, not far from where this picture was taken. The blessings from that small event continue to flow, as does my gratitude.

Staring across the divide

For some reason I've been thinking a lot lately about the challenge of reaching across the divide.  "Which divide?" you ask.  I'm not sure -- any divide.  I like to think this deer and I had a moment of cross-species communion across this fence; that she was willing to let me take her picture.

But really I'm thinking more about the growing divide in our country between Democrat and Republican, between liberal and conservative.  And (of course) the numerous divides in our little community, many of which seem irrational to me.  I just wanna whine, with Rodney King, "Why can't we all get along?"

So I was intrigued by the article my husband brought home last night from the Wall Street Journal, about Jonathan Haidt's book,  The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.  The article is definitely worth a read, so I suspect the book may be, as well.  According to the article, his theme is this: "The same moral psychology that makes our politics so nasty also underlies the amazing triumph of the human species. "We shouldn't be here at all," he tells me. "When I think about life on earth, there should not be a species like us. And if there was, we should be out in the jungle killing each other in small groups. That's what you should expect. The fact that we're here [in politics] arguing viciously and nastily with each other, and no guns, that itself is a miracle. And I think we can make [our politics] a little better. That's my favorite theme."

But what I found most interesting was that the views propounded by Haidt, a self-declared liberal and a professor of moral pscychology, formerly at UVa and now at NYU, are being most roundly applauded by conservatives.  And, I confess, some of the things he says on behalf of conservative thinkers really appealed to me.**

Is this because I'm getting older and becoming more conservative?  I don't think so.  I think it's because I'm embarrassed by the extremes to which liberals sometimes carry their causes, and by the many ways they seem to keep (as my mom used to say) "cutting off their noses to spite their faces."  I know I've said this before, but one of the reasons I continue to consider myself an Episcopalian is because I am so passionate a devotee of the via media, the middle way; something this denomination consistently espouses.

Yes, I know: conservatives have the same sorts of failings -- but since they're not "my people" I don't have to be embarrassed by them.  Right?

Actually, no.  I am always embarrassed by the foolish things we humans do when we're absolutely convinced we are RIGHT, or that we KNOW the mind of God.  And at times like that,  I can't help wondering if the real wisdom on this earth resides just as surely, right here, in the wise eyes and ears, the direct gaze of this deer.
**Two "conservative" quotes that struck me from the article:

"In Brazil, he paid attention to the experiences of street children and discovered the "most dangerous person in the world is mom's boyfriend. When women have a succession of men coming through, their daughters will get raped," he says. "The right is right to be sounding the alarm about the decline of marriage, and the left is wrong to say, 'Oh, any kind of family is OK.' It's not OK."

So here's my middle way take on that.  What I would mean by "any kind of family is OK" is that I believe it is possible to achieve stability, growth, healthy children, a contribution to society in the context of gay and lesbian relationships, mixed marriages, heterosexual marriages, single parent families, grandparent families and more.  I think that what is NOT healthy is the lack of commitment to marriage and family, the constant shifting of partners, the unwillingness to work through the hard stuff, the constant chasing after self-fulfillment at the expense of children (and ultimately, community.)

 "Education policies that let students sue teachers erode classroom authority."

This one is particularly disturbing to me, as I've been told the second largest budgetary expense for the schools on our island, after salaries, is legal fees.  Presumably for parents suing teachers for not giving their children better grades.  I know.  That last line was an assumption.  But I know it goes on, just as I know there are bad teachers in every school.  But shouldn't there be a middle way?  One of the things I loved about raising our daughters on Shaw, where the largest the school ever got was 20 children, was that teaching was a cooperative effort between the teachers, the parents, and the community.  Perhaps that's just not possible in a larger community, or maybe the cooperative stance is weakened the pressure to get good grades so you can get substantial scholarships to fabulous colleges so you have the chance of actually making a decent life for yourself when you graduate.   Money, as always, can be a powerful motivator to set aside ethical standards and behavior.

We moved several times when our children were growing up, always in search of a school that would challenge our children, inspire them to learn, and help them to grow.  I would always rather see the girls get mediocre grades from an excellent teacher than excellent grades from a mediocre teacher.  But that's just me: my mother was a teacher, so I grew up understanding that good teaching is hard, and it matters.

What WOULD make a difference?

Yesterday I went to St.Hilda-St.Patrick's church in Edmonds to take down my Contemplative Photographer's Alphabet exhibit, then continued on up to Shaw for the night, then over to Orcas in the morning to visit my daughter, and then home.

I'd been looking forward to a full night's sleep, away from our scratching dog. But as most anyone could see, looking at this gorgeous photo I shot at Squaw Bay last night, we were in for some significant thunderstorms. So I lost a few hours. Again.  No peaceful night for me.

I keep thinking of Shakespeare's phrase -- "and it must follow, as the night the day." See a thundercloud, no matter how gorgeous -- thunder is likely to follow. And for some reason it makes me think of the whole mess at Penn State: put that much money and power behind something, no matter how wonderful it is, and it's inevitable, as night follows day, that people are going to do their best to protect that power, that money, that status quo.

And, as my husband points out, as long as we insist on punishing bad behavior instead of treating it, the likelihood of coverup is going to continue to be high.  About the only good I see coming out of this whole mess is the possibility that people will finally get that "macho" and "homosexual" are not necessarily antonyms.

So then I thought, well -- okay -- I'm horrified by what went on at Penn State. But I wish this level of investigative attention could be brought to the decision made back in the Bush administration to invade Iraq. Where did all THAT false information come from? How did that happen? How did we get sucked into believing? What about all the lives that were affected by THOSE lies?

I even thought about publishing that last paragraph on Facebook. But the last time I posted something political on Facebook it touched off such a firestorm that now I'm really wary. I mean, what happened at Penn State is serious. But is closing down the school the answer? (Although maybe they should consider closing down -- or at least eviscerating -- the athletic program.) And aren't there some other horrific things in the world that deserve this level of media attention?  And isn't almost anything I say about this offensive to SOMEONE?

What I do think is that making an example of Penn State doesn't really solve the problem.  Do we really think Penn State is the only place stuff like this happens? That would be like saying Clinton was the only president who ever had a little something going on the side. Or that we should close down a whole mess of Catholic churches. And the Boy Scouts.  And, hello -- I can't help noticing folks seem to be getting WAY more upset about the rape of these young men than they generally do about the rape of young women...   I'm just sayin...

But none of that lessens the magnitude of the Penn State situation.  The problem is that we really need some serious societal change here. And I honestly don't think scapegoating and punishment are the answer; they just seem to drive stuff underground.  I mean, has the war on drugs stopped drugs?

But what does it say when I'm not even comfortable talking about this on Facebook? All I could think of were all the ways anything I said could be attacked.  Every piece of this -- rape, drugs, war, punishment, athletic programs, the Bush administration -- pushes someone's buttons.  And I'm not wanting to push buttons, or minimize ANY of these problems.  I just wish we could find a better way of solving them -- because I think they're all rooted in some of the same dirt.

I don't know. I really don't have any answers. All I know is that, as Einstein says, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." We've been punishing people for this stuff for years, and it doesn't seem to have made a difference.

Einstein also said, "Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them." We've got some incredible geniuses in the world.  Couldn't we put them to work on this problem? What WOULD make a difference?

How the eye works

I know how the eye works,
what its primary impetus and desire is:
to lay its gaze upon the beautiful,
and for beauty to wink back.

-- Hafiz

Where I once sang

It gently faded, all I once believed in.
I am glad there is a world that seems to go on
where I once sang.

All I ever knew is still a part of me,
and will be forever.

All I ever knew is like a mouse,
living in a tiny hole in the palace I have become.

 Since God gave me the key to myself,
I know the movement of every limb, fin and leaf.
I could tell you how many hairs exist
on every creature on earth.

Sometimes it, that sweet little rodent,
comes out and we look at each other,

and I even talk to that wondrous world
where I once lived,
as I am doing right now.

 -- Hafiz

Hatch out the helplessness

Pray the prayer that is the essence of every ritual:

"God, I have no hope.
I am torn to shreds.
You are my first, my last, my only refuge."

Do not do daily prayers 
like a bird, pecking its head up and down.

Prayer is an egg.
Hatch out the total helplessness inside.

-- Rumi

Social self, essential self

We had the most spectacular sunset last night.  It seemed to go on for hours, with an endless display of colors; so gorgeous!  But of course that meant we were awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a ferocious thunderstorm -- the inevitable result of clouds that magnificent.  And I learned that a popular restaurant in town burned down this morning; presumably a result of the lightning.

It reminds me a bit of when my girls were in the throes of hitting puberty: any time they were just giddily happy, you always knew they were heading for an extremely steep fall.  It's no wonder we grow up learning to censor our highs and lows -- part of the development of what Martha Beck calls in Finding Your Own North Star "the social self." 

The social self is useful, of course; it's what helps us function as civilized productive members of society.  But we can't continue listening just to the social self at the expense of the essential self, the self that knows what we want, what we love, what we were born to do.  Because the essential self has a direct connection to the body, if it goes ignored too long it is QUITE capable of derailing the social self with any number of tricks. 

I feel quite certain, for example, that the fact that my knee gave out last weekend, preventing me from going to serve again as artist-in-residence at my daughter's camp, was probably my body's way of keeping me from going -- not that I knew that's what I wanted, but I did (despite my sadness at not spending a week on Orcas with my daughter) find a certain sense of relief. 

Which just confirms that thought I had a couple of weeks ago: I really need to start paying attention to that essential self, listening to what she wants.  Because (she says, having received 2 rejections, one for a play and one for photos, in the last 24 hours, not to mention the three job applications that seem to have fallen through the cracks) something isn't quite going right, and I think I may have gotten off track.  Time to listen for what I'm meant to be doing...

Out of pocket

I have fallen out of my own pocket.
My own pocket being you, beloved.

Millions like me cry at night
because something is so deeply amiss.

The agony of separation 
you have caused us to endure.

You follow our every step, dear God; 
you saw what happened to us...

Why, why, why?
Why, why, why are you not running toward us
with all your might
returning to us our glory, our freedom --
which is beyond dispute... our divine right?

-- Hafiz

The dance of joy

Like this universe
coming into existence,
the lover wakes
and whirls in a dancing joy,

then kneels down
in praise.

-- Rumi

We are emptiness

We sleep in God's unconsciousness.
We wake in God's open hand.
We weep God's rain.
We laugh God's lightning.

Fighting and peacefulness
both take place within God.

Who are we then
in this complicated world-tangle,
that is really just the single straight line
down at the beginning of ALLAH?

We are emptiness.

-- Rumi

Under the tree of awe

How does part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?

Don't try to put out a fire by throwing on more fire.
Don't wash a wound with blood.

No matter how fast you run,
your shadow more than keeps up.
Sometimes it's in front.
Only full, overhead sun diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you.
What hurts you blesses you.

Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest...
You must have shadow and light source both.

and lay your head under the tree of awe...

-- Rumi

An explosive Fourth

One of the many joys of living across the water from a reservation is the opportunity to watch frequent firework displays.  This particular shot is a compilation of several shots taken last Saturday evening as the dog sat cowering by my chair (like many animals, he hates the noise, and even the smell of fireworks will keep him from going out for a walk.)

Tonight's displays, of course, will be the highlight of the week as rival communities celebrate up and down the shoreline; we love to sit outside on the deck and put our heads in swivel mode, turning back and forth with each new explosion of glory. 

But of course there are those who object: farmers whose horses panic at the noise, locals who prefer to be in bed before dark (and dark comes really late here, this time of year), dog owners, the wildlife shelter... my daughter suggested last night that members of the armed forces who suffer from PTSD might also find the repeated explosions trying.

And yet, despite objections, the tradition continues.  If indeed negotiations have been tried, this is clearly one of those compromises that is more of a compromise for one side than the other.  I wonder if perhaps that is because patriotism and tradition work together as a sort of trump card?  Certainly past political campaigns have used patriotism as a weapon to trounce opponents...  Although, maybe that's a guy thing; sort of like the moms who tell me they refused to give their sons toy weapons, only to find them using sticks as guns and swords.  Perhaps anything can become a weapon if that's how you see the world, divided into winners and losers...

Feeding the wolf

The other day my father-in-law forwarded me a message; one of those inflammatory "statements of fact" that seem to have a life of their own on the internet.

This one was about the ridiculous salaries heads of charitable institutions like Red Cross and United Way make (for more information, check for the actual scoop on this.)

Though the concerns were certainly valid, the information was a minimum of seven years out of date -- the woman cited as head of the American Red Cross had left that position back in 2005 -- and the heads of the institutions who served as suggested alternatives because they made "zero dollars" were in fact all also pulling six-figure incomes.

This is not the first time my father-in-law has sent me such stuff, although usually it's considerably more political and right-wing than this was, and usually I just write back, tell him he's got the facts wrong (again), don't believe everything you get across the net, always check -- you know the drill.

But it doesn't seem to make much of a difference, so this time I pointed out some of the specific fallacies in the email, sent him the snopes link, and added two quotes.  The first is one of my daughter's favorites: "When you assume, you make an ass of u and me," and the second was one I encountered in Pema Chodron's wonderful little book, Taking the Leap:

"A Native American grandfather was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about.  He said it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart.  One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was understanding and kind.  The young man asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, "The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed."

My father-in-law, who is, despite his prejudices, a delightful and loving man, sent me a cartoon the next morning with a note, "Surely I don't need snopes for this one!"  So clearly he's forgiven my outburst.  My sisters-in-law sent notes thanking me and agreeing with me.  And my husband and his brother both felt I was being too harsh.  So it was an interesting exercise... which I thought of today, while compiling this picture.  (Bear with me here, there is a connection!)

One of the lovely things about living here on the sandspit (unless, like me, you're allergic to shellfish) is that crabs, oysters, fish and clams are plentiful.  The crabs are particularly fun to get -- you just put on your boots and go out at low tide with a rake and a bucket to put them in, and you not only get dinner but you also get that great feeling of accomplishment.

So here's the connection: it seems to me that there are crabs everywhere on the internet, too -- and they're pretty easy pickins: you just troll for negativity and pick up whatever catches your fancy, then feed it to your friends.

But it seems to me that picking up those crabs and sending them off is equivalent to feeding the angry wolf -- especially when the information is false.  You're trying to get people riled up about stuff you think should disturb them: it reminds me a bit of a friend I had at a former job who delighted in telling me the latest stories of bad behavior in the office.  I do understand the concerns; I even understand the impulse to get other folks to do something about those concerns.  What worries me is the consistent delight in negativity.

Perhaps I'm a Pollyanna; it wouldn't be the first time someone has accused me of that.  But it seems to me that there are alternatives to sending out one-sided inflammatory prose; to feeding the angry wolf.  Just forwarding the words seems to me to exacerbate our feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.  Plus you're essentially triangulating, dragging someone else into your feud, trying to expand the number of people who are "on your side." It's the easy way out, it's the obvious way out, and it's much simpler than trying to ascertain the truth and work for change.  But that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right choice, and it certainly seems to add to the always persistent problem of polarization.

I'm just sayin...

So here are Ten Things You Can Do when you learn about something that disturbs you.

1.  First, confirm that what you heard is true.  Find some reliable source, and if you can't do that, do your best to become a reliable source: go to the source, find out what actually happened as best you can, and then figure out a course of action.

2.  Give yourself time to cool off before you speak or act.

3.  Express your concerns directly to the person or organization whose actions or statements have concerned you.  Try to do so without attacking or being defensive; use "I" statements.

4.  Encourage them to explain the rationale behind the choices they made that you are finding untenable.

5.  Clarify what you think they said to confirm that you you are listening and doing your best to understand their thinking.

6.  Take time to understand the motivations and explanations behind not just their reactions, but also your own.   Imagine yourself in their shoes, if possible.

7.  Be willing to accept responsibility for your own contribution to the problem.

8.  Be open, both to the possibility that there might be something you could learn in this discussion and to any opportunities for reasonable compromise.

9.  Find something productive you can do to help address the problem.

10.  Thank them for their willingness to listen, engage, discuss, etc.

If, after having taken these steps toward productive dialogue, you still feel grave concerns, then it will be time to embark on a campaign to raise awareness of the particular issue.  But always remember that the objective of that campaign is not to attack a particular individual but to solve a particular problem.

Yeah, I know.  Easier said than done.  And this is just off the top of my head, and probably doesn't apply to all situations.  But still  -- it's at least an alternative to feeding the wolf.

Now.  If I could just learn to practice what I preach -- I might have had a much more productive dialogue with my father-in-law...

Fun exploring...

Isn't this fun?  Yesterday my neighbor was back on the island to show me some more of her beautiful photography, and she also spent some time explaining how she was using texture layers.

So of COURSE I went home to play, and in the process discovered not only textures but something called "sloppy borders" that I'd seen but never known how to emulate.  And, oh my goodness, what fun!

After browsing on the internet for a while I realized that I already had lots of wonderful textures to play with, and that the sloppy border effect was pretty simple to create, and so -- voila!  It's a far cry from painting, of course, but I'm getting some exciting ideas for the show that's coming up in a couple of months... Stay tuned!

On the importance of listening

A new dawn, a new day, new insights; so much to be grateful for! This morning I am reading in Oriah Mountain Dreamer's book, The Call, about the importance of listening to your body.  And I see I was missing an important message on Friday, when I was so tired that every task I thought to undertake felt overwhelming.

You can see it in yesterday's post: I automatically went to that blaming place, being hard on myself for not doing.  It was good, in that I listened to my body and didn't try to tackle things for which I had no energy. 

But I didn't take that extra step -- and if you are a parent, you know the importance of this step -- I didn't kneel before that tired whiny child in me and ask her what she really wanted.  I just saw her as a tired whiny irritating child, getting in the way of big important me and all my important plans; I didn't honor her wisdom, didn't pay attention, didn't stop to listen -- even though I had taken a wee vow earlier in the week to spend time with that inner source of wisdom.

So whatever she might have had to tell me went unheard -- and, not surprisingly, she began sending some louder, angrier messages yesterday; you know, the kind you have to listen to -- fierce aches and twinges of pain that tell you something's wrong, slow down, listen, pay attention.  Nothing serious, and I did take a minute to listen and adjust, but it wasn't until this morning that I really woke up to what was going on.

I could hear my own child-voice, and the voices of children everywhere: "But Mommy, you promised..."  And it's true.  I did promise.  I promised to listen, and then forgot and went into that sort of spinning auto-pilot mode of busyness and exhaustion.

Such a good lesson.  Today I promise to listen more carefully; to pay attention; to honor her need to sit or move without rushing her into something she's not ready for.

But I will say this: you know why I can be so much more rational this morning?  Because we got more sleep last night.  Because some friends of ours came over for a visit, heard our whining, and told us there were alternatives to our dog's hard plastic collar that makes so much noise in the night; they even went on line and told us where to buy these cloth collars -- even called the store to see if they had any in stock!  Now that's a true friend. 

So after they left for the ferry, I drove off to the local Petco and picked up a Contech Pro-Collar, and -- oh, what a difference it makes!  No noise, no banging against the back of the legs or the bed or the dresser or the door or the wall, and he basically slept through the night -- probably because he's basically wearing a pillow around his neck; it's got to be way more comfortable.

... all of which is another reminder that we alone just don't have all the answers.  We need one another, need that sense of connection, that wisdom we have to offer one another -- even about the simplest little things.  Engaging, listening, paying attention, acting on the wisdom -- it's all good!
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